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Sgt. Steve O. Cole, staff-noncomissioned officer in charge of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment information operations interacts with the civilians of Fallujah. Cole speaks with the people as a sign of goodwill, once again trying to earn the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.   Photo by: Cpl. Randy L. Bernard

IO Marines fight insurgency through interaction
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1st Marine Division
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Computed Name: Cpl. Randy L. Bernard (Marine Corps News)
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FALLUJAH, Iraq (Jan. 9, 2005) -- Since major offensive actions have cooled down in the city of Fallujah, the battle is now refocused on helping the displaced citizens get back to their normal lives.

The Marines with Information Operations, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, ensure that the community is well informed and taken care of through their face-to-face interaction. The Marines make sure they speak with the Fallujans as they enter their city for the first time since fighting and bombs rocked the neighborhoods.

“Our mission now is to get the message out to civilians. We giving them everything they need to know like what they should do if they come across unexploded ordnance, where to get humanitarian aid, any safety issues inside of the city, and try to communicate to them any assistance we can,” said Sgt. Steve O. Cole, the staff noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of 3/5 IO.

In addition to letting the returning civilians know what is going on inside of their city, IO also works at countering rumors or false information that may have been passed to the Iraqis.

“We talk with the Iraqi people to find out what they are hearing,” said Cole, a 33-year-old-native of Tulare, Calif. “Someone had told them that every house marked with an x was an insurgent house, and it would be destroyed. Nearly every building in the city was marked with an x, but that is because we marked them to keep track of where we had already been (during the offensive). But these people don’t know that, and we are here to help them.”

While the current operations are focused mainly on a personal interaction, IO also maintains a steady information campaign through fliers, handouts, posters, and television and radio broadcasts.

“We are trying to educate the population to keep the city safe for them,” said Capt. P.J. Batty, the officer-in-chare of IO. “Part of that safety is obeying the rules that we are giving them.”

These rules are in place to ensure that nobody gets hurt accidentally for being where they shouldn’t be, or doing anything that could be mistaken for a hostile action.

“We’ve won the IO battle,” said Batty, a 34-year-old native of Park City, Vt. “The wedge has been driven between the insurgents and the Fallujans. And we hope to continue that now that we have face time with the people of the city.”

Not only is the campaign good for the people of Fallujah, but it is a bonus for the Marines working with them.

“I like going in there and talking to them,” said Cole. “They tell us thank you and appreciate what we are doing. You also get a wide variety of experience out there, even if it is the same mission, there are always little things that make it worth-while.